Wednesday 23 February 2022

Breckland Birding, In search of Goshawks

It's been a frustrating few days, Storm Eunice bringing 70 mph winds, heavy rain, hailstones, and fallen trees. Having checked the weather forecast last night, there seemed to be a vast improvement, with clear skies and sunny spells throughout the morning, giving us a chance to go searching for Goshawks. We set off early and arrived just after first light at Santon Downham, hoping to connect with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The walk down to the Little Ouse River gave super viewing of several singing Woodlarks.
We walked our normal route looking and listening for any presence of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Robert spotted a single bird high up on a broken tree branch. thankfully it stayed long enough for all to enjoy. We spent the next hour watching both male and female birds coming to various trees, with almost constant drumming throughout.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

With an eye on the weather, we set off in search of Goshawks. Reaching the site we joined a small group of birders and began scanning the distant trees. It wasn't long before we were enjoying our first views of Goshawks. Plenty of Buzzards were present and we watched a Goshawk mobbing a Buzzard several times. We followed one Goshawk flying low across the treetops and watched it land at the top of a pine tree, giving some fantastic scope views. Some of the best views of Goshawks I have ever had. A couple of hours later, we decided to leave, but as we were about to drive off another birder called us back saying he had spotted a White-tailed Eagle flying among the Buzzards! We all jumped out and enjoyed good if brief views of the bird before it disappeared north.

Brian reported the Eagle sighting and received news back that it was G463 a male from the IOW reintroduction programme. It was the first of the IOW eagles to cross the English Channel last year spending time in France and Denmark before returning to England.

Goshawk perched in treetops

Lynford is about eight miles away and would be our final stop before heading home. As we approached the car park, there was a small group of birders looking closely at some ivy-clad trees. We joined them and were told they had seen a Firecrest. We could see it flitting about among the ivy and soon it popped out onto the outer branches.


After spending some time enjoying the Firecrest we scanned the feeding area by the wooden gate. It was alive with birds, Plenty of Yellowhammer, Brambling, Siskin, Nuthatch, and Coal Tit were seen and a single Hawfinch also dropped in to take advantage of the scattered seed.

Both main targets were seen and both gave stunning views, along with a supporting cast that only added to a super day's birding.

Tuesday 8 February 2022

American Robin: Eastbourne, East Sussex

The last twitchable American Robin on the UK mainland was back in 2010 when one was present from the 10th-18th November in Exeter, Devon. At that time I had just began to travel further afield from my local patch, but a 400 mile and 8-hour return trip in a day didn't even enter our thoughts at that time. However, I didn't think it would be over 11 years before I had another chance of seeing one!

I was sitting at home yesterday when news broke of an American Robin present in Eastbourne. The bird wasn't reported until 3.46pm. With no chance of getting there before dusk, we had two choices, either wait for positive news or go and hope it was still present. We left at 5.15am and received positive news as we were approaching Eastbourne. There were roughly 40 birders already present and we were told the Robin was in or around the bushes behind the garages of the cul-de-sac. It didn't take long before I had my first view of an American Robin, but it was fleeting and not the view I had hoped for! Thankfully during the morning, the bird was seen multiple times giving fantastic scope views perched up in various trees and bushes. 


Plenty of familiar faces were seen today and some names put to others, Birding trips to residential areas are not my favourite, but there was no hint of any problems from birders and the locals were very friendly with some taking the opportunity to look through my scope to view the bird. I hope this continues and everyone who visits in the coming days behaves responsibly and respects the surroundings and the residents. 

Birders and residents viewing the bird

While watching the Robin we realised that the Hooded Crow at Polegate was only four miles away. A quick drive along the A2270 and A27 and we had spotted the Crow in the trees behind the Mcdonald's before parking the car.

Hooded Crow

On the way home, we took a short detour to Iford, and although we took the wrong path we managed to pick out the Bean Geese among the White-fronted Geese along the track from the church.

American Robin was right up there on my wish list, and it didn't disappoint.

Sunday 6 February 2022

King George V and Abberton Reservoirs, Essex

Friday 4th

An hour or two on Friday was spent walking the South basin of the KGV Reservoir. A smart-looking Black-necked Grebe was found in the southwest corner for a welcome addition to the year list. We scanned the North basin from the causeway and picked out two Scaup among a large raft of Tufted Ducks, and the Red-necked Grebe first seen on the 11th December was also found, this time in the Southeast corner of the North basin, possibly pushed onto the North basin by the presence of windsurfers.


Black-necked Grebe

Saturday 5th

This morning we visited Abberton Reservoir and found a single Red Crested Pochard among the rafts of Tufted Ducks and Pochard. Six Cattle Egret were still present at the farm and the viewing area at Abberton Church proved productive with Red-necked and Slavonian Grebe both found in front of the pumping station and eight Bewick's Swan were also seen from here.

Cattle |Egret


We returned to Layer Breton Causeway and found the Long-tailed Duck among the massive rafts of Tufted Ducks and Pochard that had moved across from the main reservoir. It was still some distance from the causeway.

Long-tailed Duck

The White-fronted Geese however were very close to the causeway, and within the flock of thirty-one White-fronts, there was a single Pink-footed Goose. On the opposite side of the causeway, we counted at least seven Great Egrets and found a redhead Smew feeding in front of the reeds.

White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese


A cold but very enjoyable morning, two new additions to the year list brought up the 150, but it was nice just to enjoy some close views of some special birds.